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USFL 2023 Championship Game TV Rating Sees Significant Decline In Viewership From 2022

The TV Ratings are in for the USFL 2023 Championship Game On NBC. The USFL scored its highest individual game rating of the season since Week 4. However, the viewership numbers were down significantly from last year’s title game.

USFL 2023 Championship Game TV Rating On NBC (Per NBC/Nielsen)

Saturday, July 1st’s USFL Championship Game saw the Birmingham Stallions repeat as league champs defeating the Pittsburgh Maulers 28-12. The telecast averaged 1.157 million viewers on NBC. It was the league’s best viewership total since Week 4’s Memphis Showboats-Michigan Panthers on the same network. (2.063 million). The game scored a 0.16 in the key 18-49 demographic.

Per NBC: The championship game averaged 1.2 million viewers across NBC, Peacock, and NBC Sports Digital Platforms.

The 2023 championship is the second USFL game this past season to average over a million viewers. However, this year’s viewership performance is down significantly from the USFL 2022 Championship game on FOX between the Birmingham Stallions and Philadelphia Stars, which averaged 1.517 million viewers.

USFL Championship Game Rating Analysis

It’s challenging to come up with a positive spin on the ratings for the 2023 USFL Championship Game.

The USFL’s viewership numbers were down across the board from last season. The league struggled to generate added interest and build upon its inaugural season in 2022. Even the lure of a championship game didn’t draw in the type of boost sports leagues typically get for their title game.

The increase in over-the-air network games, along with the added promotion across two major networks, and stabilized weekend time slots, didn’t aid the USFL in seeing growth in year two.

There’s definitely enough evidence now of a limited ceiling for viewership. For this specific product.

Overall, in the landscape, the numbers are passable. Depending on your perspective. But the lack of growth and added interest for the USFL in year two is troublesome.

Finding ways to draw in casual and mainstream sports fans has always been a challenge for these entities. No matter the quality of the football or the broadcasts themselves.

On a positive note, the USFL, as expected, will be back for season three.

As a lifelong advocate of non-NFL pro football leagues and the benefits derived from their existence in the landscape, having a season three for a spring pro football league is a victory.

The challenge becomes finding a way to accomplish what the USFL didn’t in 2022 in terms of increasing its popularity and product awareness.

Quite frankly, the USFL is seeing a year three because of its low-risk financial model. But in order for the league to have sustainable success. They need to find a way to connect with fans who have ignored the product, specifically with their teams that carry the namesake of cities but do not play in their markets.

It’s beating a dead horse at this point. But the bottom line is that the lack of an in-stadium atmosphere has an impact on the USFL’s TV and overall product. It’s hurt perception and has affected attendance, viewership, and interest in teams with the namesakes of their cities who don’t reside there.

People in Pittsburgh and New Jersey barely know that the Maulers and Generals exist. Because they don’t have a connection with their cities, their existence is a hollow one until that changes.

Despite the USFL’s best efforts and desires to place all their teams in their markets, The league hasn’t been able to shift from its low-cost Hub concept. The failure of being able to sell their league and teams to fans and cities is what has held the league back.

After two years, the USFL still seems like an incomplete product. Perhaps, that will change over time. But until it becomes a fully-fledged traditional pro sports league with all teams in their actual markets. The pattern of year two will repeat itself in year three.

2023 USFL TV Ratings By Week (Average Viewership, Per Nielsen)

Week One

  • FOX: Philadelphia Stars-Memphis Showboats: 837,000
  • FOX: Birmingham Stallions-New Jersey Generals: 864,000
  • NBC: Michigan Panthers-Houston Gamblers: 974,000
  • FS1: New Orleans Breakers-Pittsburgh Maulers: 483,000

Average viewership: 789,500

Week Two

  • USA: New Orleans Breakers-Houston Gamblers: 133,000
  • FOX: Birmingham Stallions-Memphis Showboats: 798,000
  • NBC: Pittsburgh Maulers- New Jersey Generals: 725,000
  • USA: Michigan Panthers-Philadelphia Stars: 211,000

Average viewership: 466,750

Week Three

  • USA: New Orleans Breakers-Birmingham Stallions: 293,000
  • FOX: Memphis Showboats- Houston Gamblers: 776,000
  • NBC: Philadelphia Stars-Pittsburgh Maulers: 761,000
  • FOX: Michigan Panthers-New Jersey Generals: 563,000

Average viewership: 598,250

Week Four

  • FOX: Philadelphia Stars-Houston Gamblers: 521,000
  • NBC: Memphis Showboats-Michigan Panthers: 2,063,000
  • NBC: New Jersey Generals-New Orleans Breakers: 828,000
  • FS1: Birmingham Stallions-Pittsburgh Maulers: 545,000

Average viewership: 989,250

Week Five

  • USA: Pittsburgh Maulers-Michigan Panthers: 256,000
  • FOX: Birmingham Stallions-Houston Gamblers: 914,000
  • NBC: Philadelphia Stars-New Jersey Generals: 757,000
  • FOX: New Orleans Breakers-Memphis Showboats: 563,000

Average viewership: 622,500

Week Six

  • USA: Pittsburgh Maulers-Memphis Showboats: 227,000
  • FOX: Birmingham Stallions-Michigan Panthers: 732,000
  • FS1: Philadelphia Stars-New Orleans Breakers: 217,000
  • FOX: Houston Gamblers-New Jersey Generals: 630,000

Average viewership: 451,500

Week Seven

  • FOX: Birmingham Stallions-New Orleans Breakers: 703,000
  • FS1: Philadelphia Stars-Pittsburgh Maulers: 161,000
  • USA: Houston Gamblers-Memphis Showboats: 251,000
  • FS1: New Jersey Generals-Michigan Panthers: 274,000

Average viewership: 347,520

Week Eight

  • USA: Pittsburgh Maulers-Houston Gamblers: 228,000
  • NBC: Philadelphia Stars-Birmingham Stallions: 747,000
  • FOX: New Jersey Generals-Memphis Showboats: 720,000
  • FOX: New Orleans Breakers-Michigan Panthers: 774,000

Average viewership: 617,250

Week Nine

  • FOX: Michigan Panthers-Pittsburgh Maulers: 700,000
  • NBC: New Orleans Breakers-Memphis Showboats: 617,000/531K delay (CNBC: 47,000)
  • NBC: Birmingham Stallions-Houston Gamblers: 665,000
  • FOX: Philadelphia Stars-New Jersey Generals: 903,000

Average viewership: 721,250 (Not counting the delay or CNBC portion)

Week Ten

  • USA: Pittsburgh Maulers-New Jersey Generals: 240k
  • FOX: Birmingham Stallions-Memphis Showboats: 636k
  • FS1: New Orleans Breakers-Houston Gamblers: 167k
  • FOX: Philadelphia Stars-Michigan Panthers: 720k

Average viewership: 438,250

USFL 2023 Regular Season Ratings Average: 604,425

Through the first ten weeks of the USFL 2023 regular season, 26 of the league’s 40 games aired on FOX/NBC. The other fourteen aired on cable. Here is the average viewership for each network heading into the playoffs.

  • FOX- (17 games): 726k (886k in 2022)
  • NBC-(9 games): 904k (1.13 million in 2022)
  • FS1- (6 games): 307k (284k in 2022)
  • USA- (8 games): 229k (334k in 2022)

USFL 2023 Divisional Playoffs

  • NBC: Pittsburgh Maulers-Michigan Panthers (8 pm ET): 957k
  • FOX: Birmingham Stallions-New Orleans Breakers (7 pm ET): 852k

Average viewership: 904,500

USFL 2023 Championship Game

  • NBC: Birmingham Stallions-Pittsburgh Maulers (8 pm ET): 1.157 million viewers

Playoff average: 988,667

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  1. Tim

    July 5, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    The Championship TV veiwship was simply disappointing, no other way to sugarcoat it.
    Why did NBC not promote this game?
    For season 3 to have any traction and be a success all teams have to play in their own markets, if not them it will likely be the end for this league. Considering all teams, other than Houston, are based in the Eastern states and pretty much close to each other, travel expenses should not be that high so why still need hubs?
    I hope the USFL survives beyond year 3 and is the better product compared to the XFL, but the hubs have to go to have any chance.

  2. 4th&long

    July 5, 2023 at 4:31 pm

    Disagree that NBC was agressive at all in promoting the game/season. In fact NBC’s ProFB Talk website had no stories promoting or talking it up – and that cost zip while its widely read. That was disappointing

    You also need to consider the TV market share size of the cities represented in all 3 games. USFL 2023 was by far the lowest:

    USFL 2023 had two of the smallest market teams totaling 1.157% (.62 birm and .95 pitt) US household marketshare,
    vs 2x USFL 2022 3.11% (.62 birm and 2.51 philly)
    and 3x XFL 2023 4.57% (2.46 dallas and 2.11 DC).
    Market size matters in TV viewership, USFL 2023 was 1/3 XFL, 1/2 USFL 2022.

    Agreed on engagement, Its why USFL needs to play in Philly with NJ or Philly and NJ both – even 2-3 games each there to get local media/press/fan engagement. Fan engagement in mini-markets like Memphis/Birm (or future) NOLA won’t be much for TV.
    Agreed on cost effectiveness is keeping USFL in game for now. XFL doesn’t have that … yet.

    All in all USFL season avg 631k, XFL 634k and USFL 747k 2022. But when adjusting out week 1 and looking at Weeks 2-championship:

    USFL 2023 weeks 2 thru Championship 2023: 615k (39 games)
    USFL 2022 weeks 2 thru Championship 2022: 653k (35 games)
    XFL 2023 weeks 2 thru Championship 2023: 567k (39 games)

    And while ESPN is not a “broadcast” its viewership typically is on par for sports, so the XFL had 22 games ABC/ESPN and USFL 29 FOX/NBC. Clearly the Overlap hurt both leagues esp week 1 of USFL. But where XFL excelled was ESPN2/FX while USFL’s USA dropped from 331k to 233k, and FS1 avg only 294k. XFL’s FX 429k and ESPN2 456k, kudos to XFL/Disney for those #s. At 180k more per game cable that was where the diff between the leagues was, it cost USFL 58k per game viewership compared to XFL.

    Both leagues have areas to improve. They both have a firm base to work from. Their leagues are obviously very similar but their strength weaknesses are slightly diff.

    Concern: Without some coordination or outright merger/combo both will not reach full potential and may both fold. That’s my concern from day XFL announced return.

    Personal note: With Twitter access BS the more articles vs tweets would be great!

  3. Barney

    July 6, 2023 at 6:58 pm

    Having a joke of a team like Pittsburgh who was 4-6 made the game seem ridiculous too.

  4. Ken Granito

    July 7, 2023 at 12:24 am

    I have already commented greatly on what I would do to help the league grow. As I have stated I don’t know all of the headwinds, the league faces, but I have an idea of what they could be. I appreciate the attempt to get more teams into their home cities in 2023. They did a great job. That stated the ratings did not reflect the improvement in the league. A good amount of that is due to having competition from a league that paid a little more to get better known players and playing in games across the country hitting every time zone. I have been and continue to be a proponent of the USFL, but I think Moose Johnston feels like he lost even though they hit on their plans for year 2. It likes the Rays playing the Yankees over the years. The Rays could institute their plans and be a strong team, but the Yankees would use their payroll and have more talent when the chips are down. Now the XFL lost a reported 60 million dollars and Moose feels like he lost. You can’t have 3 teams in a league be able to root for their home team and I think he knows that. I expect there to be more teams in their home markets in 2024, hopefully all of them. This will help their ratings by having more people connected to their teams. I think they would increase ratings by increasing their footprint including to the west coast, including San Diego, but I respect the plan they put in place. It would be great to see what they do and I look forward to seeing what they put in place.

  5. Shawn

    July 8, 2023 at 11:48 am

    Fisrt off, the USFL needs to adopt the CFL’s Playoff structure, let 1st seed have bye round, have seeds 2 & 3 play wild card so only 4th seed misses playoff…why do this? Cuz every dang team will play their hearts out not to be the 4th seed…can you imagine Houston coming up and beating Birmingham to play championship??? (not likely, but to say it can’t happen is foolish)

    Secondly, I think that and putting teams in home market will boost attendance…but I still struggle why ppl think you can’t enjoy a game unless there are fans in stands, how does that take away from gameplay? It doesn’t but some are still hung up on that…

    All out, regardless of names, USFL is far superior to XFL…why do XFL think they are development league? You get guys who went from NCAA to NFL and then go to XFL and revert to NCAA rules when your trying to get back to NFL…how is that deveoping players and getting them ready to go back to NFL? Plus the kickoffs…safer? I don’t see a lot of injuries on kick returns in USFL so that seems BS (just saying) plus, again developing players to play in formation that will never be adopted by NFL? At least the USFL has just taken the NFL and made it better.

    Everyone knows that in NFL games, if your team is down by 4+ points in 4th with :30 left to play after scoring TD then game is OVER! No chance at all for onside kick as they have ruined that chance and only (I think) less than 4% success (if that) do teams recover…at least USFL games can literally go down to the last tick of clock!

    Another thing for USFL to do is make subscription like “NFL Game Pass” so fans can watch all games anytime, plus add all USFL related content. Be awesome if they could get rights to OG league games and let fans watch those also…as long as they don’t start out with too high a price for package…I think ppl would pay for that service if available.

    Yet I fear the two leagues will end up trying to out do each other and both will fail…the only reason XFL has the name power and attendance is cuz “The Rock” is co-owner and anything Rock’s involved sells…or so they think, but when u see his name on team jersey then it’s more about him! Hopefully the USFL wins out but since it has an American theme, it probably won’t in our society cuz America bad! LOL

  6. Ken Granito

    July 22, 2023 at 9:56 am

    Hey Shawn, I don’t believe in all you wrote, but most of it. You are paying attention and connecting the dots while remaining a true fan. Very thoughtful. It’s nice to know the quality of the USFL is making its mark in some places.

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